There is a high demand for landing crafts along the Alaskan coast. Thanks to their special design they are the optimal fit for the tides of the northernmost state in the United States. German emigrant Peter Schwartz – founder of “Alaska Marine Transportation & Salvage” (AMTS) – built the “Polar Bear” in 1989. 2013, the vessel was repowered with two MAN D2862 LE424 heavy duty engines and is now not only compliant with the latest EPA Tier 3 emission regulations, but also the fastest boat of its kind along the American west coast.
In the early 20th century, landing crafts were developed as military vessels, which were able to transport forces including their equipment to land, regardless if ports were available. Because of the need to run up to a beach, they had a flat bottom and a bow ramp which allowed them to pull right up to the shore. These landing crafts were also used for humanitarian operations in inaccessible areas.
These characteristics also apply to the Alaskan area. Alaska is the largest state in the United States but at the same time it is also the least densely populated. Its coast line is longer than all other states combined and Alaska has more than three million lakes and over 12,000 rivers. Many of the villages still have no road access and therefore a large portion of the cargo is transported by water. Because of the towns’ sizes, there are only a few ports and most of them do not even have docks nor pier, which is why a special vessel is required in order to still be able to deliver goods. Landing crafts fulfill these needs and because of that, they are currently used to haul cargo and heavy equipment, or even serve as a drilling platform.
A German engineer in Alaska – Building and optimizing Alaska’s fastest landing craft
Peter Schwartz, originally from East Germany with a degree in ocean engineering, flew to Canada in 1965, from where he drove on a motorcycle to Alaska. During his first years he had several jobs in the off-shore industry, but then started his own company “Alaska Marine Transportation & Salvage” (AMTS) in 1974, by buying a refurbished landing craft that transported cattle near the Island Kodiak. He owned several boats throughout the years two of which he even designed himself. After 15 years of experience with several boats that transported cargo and supported oil spill clean ups,
Peter Schwartz knew what he was looking for in a vessel and built the Polar Bear for U$ 2.7 million. Two years later, he brought the 125 ft. landing craft from its building place, the Tacoma Old Military Shipyard warehouse in Washington to Alaska. With a width of 34 ft. the landing craft had a capacity of 220 tons. Because of the high demand for mostly transport construction equipment, AMTS had to refuse jobs and therefore missed out on business. That is why Peter Schwartz decided to stretch the vessel and since he has worked as a welder during the Trans-Alaska oil-pipeline construction, he chose to cut the vessel in half and then welding a 30 ft. extension in between. The new length of 155 ft. lead to an increased capacity of 280 tons, which is equal to seven 40 ft. and one 20 ft. containers.
After its certification by the coast guard in April 2014, its first job was to transport heavy duty construction equipment from Dutch Harbor to Iliamna, which can only be reached by water. With a top speed of 14 knots, the landing craft is the fastest boat of its kind along Americas west coast which is important, because the drastic tides within the Alaska region, forces the vessels crew to be on a strict time frame to deliver, unload their goods and return before the water level becomes too low and they would be stuck in one location. This would cause additional downtime and lead to a loss of business for AMTS. As an example, for the distance of 70 miles (approximately 110km) from Nikiski to Beluga, they need to unload within four hours and 30 minutes, otherwise they would have to wait for the return trip until the next day.
Repowering the “Polar Bear” with two MAN D2862 LE424 heavy duty engines
In order to ensure a smooth operation, very reliable engines are required. Peter Schwartz, who is a long term MAN customer, chose to repower its vessel in December 2013 with the two worldwide first installed MAN D2862 LE424 heavy duty engines.
The V-twelve cylinder engines generate an output of 900 hp each at 1,800 rpm. The D2862, like all MAN V engines of the latest common rail generation, meets the U.S. emission standard for commercial use EPA Tier 3. The current regulation requires a 20% reduction in nitrous oxides and an additional 40% reduction in particle emission compared to EPA Tier 2. The twelve cylinder engine for heavy duty applications also sets a new benchmark for fuel consumption. Despite EPA Tier 3, with 198 g/kWh at cruising speed the total cost of ownership is remarkably low. Especially for semi-planning hulls such as the Polar Bear, it is important to optimize the operating expenses and cost of ownership in the commercial business.
Peter Schwartz is especially impressed by one new feature the engine offers: “Now, that I can monitor the actual fuel consumption at any speed and rpm, it allows a very economical operation.
Depending on the load status you can determine the engine speed with the highest fuel efficiency and therefore keep the costs low”. One of the reasons for the low fuel consumption is the extreme compact design and light weight of the Troy Liffrig who works at “Performance Diesel Inc” (PDI), an authorized MAN distributor located in Webster Texas and is responsible for the installation of the D2862’s, explains an additional benefit: “In order to fully utilize the vessels capacity, the engine room has to be as small as possible. With its compact design and light weight of only 5004 lbs, the twelve cylinder diesel engine is the perfect fit and still provides an outstanding power.”
Name of vessel: Polar Bear
Type of vessel: Landing Craft
Shipyard: By AMTS in the Tacoma Old Military Shipyard Warehouse
Home port: Homer Alaska
Launch: Repower December 2013
Length: 155 ft. (47,24 m)
Beam: 34 ft. (10,36 m)
Draft: 5 ft.
Maximum speed: 14.0 knots
Main engines: 2x MAN D2862 LE424: V-cylinder, 662 kW (900 hp) at 1.800 rpm, EPA Tier 3
Propeller: 48“ 4 blades
Transmission: RENK MASSON RSD 281